Nintendo Switch OLED Teardown: More Than Screen Deep

Don’t let the name fool you—the Nintendo Switch OLED is more than a new display. There’s a new kickstand, sure, but also a new cooling design and redesigned boards—these changes are more than screen-deep. If you’re having trouble getting your hands on this new hotness (we did!), let us show you around the internals with a quick photo tour. Or if video is more your speed, check out our video teardown/compare-down.

First things first, let’s crack the lid. Despite that expansive kickstand, the opening procedure is still pretty much the same. (Lucky you, we’ve got a guide for that!) The same semi-wonky JIS and tri-point screws bar the way, albeit from slightly different places.

Popping the top, we start to see some differences, and they’re not reassuring. Taped interconnect cables aren’t our favorite: they’re annoying to remove and put back. Presumably this will help Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity issues, but to our eyes it looks a bit hastily done. Under the shield is where the true differences appear—despite what looks like an identical battery, we spy different cooling hardware and a new, color-uncoordinated circuit board.

Despite looking like a super sweet guitar, this board isn’t a treat at all—the game card reader, headphone jack, and SD card slot are all soldered aboard. In the name of space saving, or perhaps dialing back the prior models’ cooling overcompensation, the fan and heat sinks have markedly shrunk. With a presumably thinner display, you’d think there would be more room inside, not less, but that kickstand hinge has to fit somewhere.

The original Nintendo Switch speakers (top) emit sound from both sides. The new Switch OLED speakers (bottom) are enclosed and only fire forward, toward the player.

The speakers have also been beefed up and enclosed. This allows for better sound quality in a smaller space without muffling the output—something not possible with the prior-gen Switch speakers. (Our favorite piece of trivia about these new speakers is that the engineers tested them with piano music that they wrote themselves. Engineer artists—we can relate.)

Enough noise, let’s get to the main attraction: that OLED. Unlike the original Switch’s air-gapped LCD, this OLED is a single, painfully thin and fragile screen. But unlike, say, the thin, fragile OLED screens on Samsung phones, this display actually comes up with pretty minimal fuss. You’re probably still more likely to break this screen than an LCD, both in use and during repairs, but at least it’s not a nightmare. Speaking of Samsung, this is a Samsung-made display—surprising almost no one, given their OLED panel monopoly … er, expertise. 

Silicon-wise, we see a lot of similarities to Switches past, with the main differences being:

  • Accelerometer made by TDK-Invensense instead of STMicroelectronics
  • LPDDR4 Memory made by Micron instead of Samsung
  • NAND Flash made by Samsung instead of Toshiba
  • Samsung-made S2DOS04 power management chip (presumably for the new OLED display)

But what about Joy-Con drift, you ask? 

The only visible improvements to the Joy-Con situation are actually to the console-side rails, which hold the controllers much more securely. But Nintendo assures us that the joysticks are being continually improved. So while we wait for the ultimate drift-proof joystick, we’re stuck with the sticks Nintendo (and every other console maker) gave us. And if you do end up drifting, we’ve got a kit for that.

On the repairability scale, the new Switch OLED fares well—if not quite so well as we hoped! It earns a 7 out of 10, for its sensible, modular construction and general use of screws over adhesive. But that’s a point lower than the prior model, thanks to the non-modular storage and card reader consolidation.

That’s a wrap on this teardown! For all the details, be sure to watch the complete teardown video. As a final bonus, here’s a see-through view of the entire console, courtesy of the X-ray wizards at Creative Electron.